Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Single issue parties

Another little something I knocked up in that idle part of Sunday evening between The Westminster Hour finishing and The Ashes (don't get me started) coverage beginning... couldn't get anyone to take it on Monday morning and before you could say 'news angle' the news angle had passed...


Gil, the Israeli pensioners party, shocked everyone when it won seven seats in the Knesset earlier this year. In Canada, the Bloc Québécois was formed solely to argue for Quebecois independence, and has acquired more than 10% of the vote in the five elections since its birth. The Referendum Party, meanwhile, disappeared in ignominy, and there still hasn’t been a referendum almost a decade later.

Now a new party is hoping to realign the British political landscape with their own audaciously parochial agenda: they are Animals Count, and the clue is rather cleverly embedded in their name. They want to “establish a voice for the animals through a dedicated political party, which focuses on respect and compassion for all living beings”.

Launching last Sunday (Dec 3), Animals Count marked the occasion with an event at Kensington Town Hall, and Jasmijn de Boo paid a visit to BBC Five Live to explain her cause. Challenged over whether a single issue party would ever be able to get a significant foothold in British politics, de Boo pointed to the increasingly successful Green Party, whose External Communications Co-ordinator Jim Killock was also in the studio.

“We are not a single issue party” Killock objected. “That’s like saying the Labour Party started off as a single issue party with the issue of workers rights and social justice.” The Green Party has demonstrated how central tenets can be broadened to a more holistic political philosophy: few would contest that ‘green’ issues are ones also pertaining to health, education and the economy. It is difficult to see how Animals Count might achieve a similarly wide-lens focus. What could their Defence Spokesperson possibly have to say about the invasion of Iraq? ‘Please try not to bomb any porcupines’?

It is tempting to toy with the idea of a Private Members Bill about pelicans (think about it), fishcal policy, Pre-Budgie Reports, the European Common Meerkat, or even the jettisoning of Claws Four at the party’s Con-fur-ence. But that would be unfair. And it is understandable that Animals Count want to reinvigorate the animal rights movement in a nation of animal lovers, where, let us not forget, the RSPCA supposedly raises more money than the NSPCC. In the wake of some devastating publicity caused by transgressions by animal rights extremists, a high-profile push for political credibility would at least tip media coverage back in the right direction.

In purely electoral terms however, Animals Count seem to have made a miscalculation. Israel’s Pensioners Party obtained their position in the Knesset with the backing of thousands of pensioners at the ballot box: until Fido and Tibbles get the vote in the UK, it is difficult to see their political advocates gracing the House of Commons.

Or so I had thought. In the Dutch general election two weeks ago (Nov 22) a four-year-old political party made a major breakthrough, gaining the first two seats in its history. Its name? Partij voor de Dieren, The Party for the Animals.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Yesteryear's hepcats

Last week the NME published its annual Cool List, providing zeitgeist hunters everywhere with a dowsing rod for locating this year’s hippest guys and girls (this year, Beth from The Gossip, which is almost vomitously behind the times). The NME has always been the yardstick for what’s hot and what’s not, as this recently-unearthed document proves: it is the first ever NME Cool List, drawn up by the magazine’s writers in 1892.

1. Queen Victoria
She may not be an obvious choice, but Victoria once again proves that being cool is not about being obvious – her frumpy frocks and moody looks are quite simply so hot right now. She has confounded expectations ever since she first picked up her sceptre in 1837, and her no-nonsense attitude to the Crown takes no prisoners. Vicky proves you can wear a tiara and still rock as hard as the boys.

2. Jack the Ripper
While he may not be as fresh as when he first emerged on the scene, he’s fresher than the corpses he leaves behind! Saucy Jack worries parents the length and breadth of Britain, and his bad boy image and stylish ‘Gladstone bag’ means he’s still the favourite of our nation’s youth. He’s also made East London the place to be and to be seen once again this year. “He’s a bad influence”, wails the Police Gazette, but his dalliances with the law and flagrant disregard for human life are as cool as Jacob Perkins’ vapour-compression refrigeration system.

3. William Gladstone
With his trademark mutton chops and devil-may-care approach to the question of Home Rule, ‘Billy G’ does his thing without worrying what the Liberal Party think – a true maverick in the old school style.

4. Karl Marx
The thinking woman’s crumpet even in death, Red Karl didn’t get the nickname ‘the Rhineland Renegade’ for no reason. Das Kapital may have put the ‘difficult’ into ‘difficult second album’ syndrome, but who doesn’t want to get inside this guy’s mind?

5. Arthur Conan Doyle
All the boys want to be him, all the girls want to be with him. The Byron of Baker Street has made mystery sexy again.

6. Thomas Edison
Edison practically invented music – he certainly invented the phonograph, and he keeps innovating while the competition are still fumbling around with lutes and sheet music. Get with the program, daddio!

7. Benjamin Harrison
The 23rd President of the USA. His idiosyncratic take on civil service reform, not to mention the reciprocity provisions he has forced into America’s new tariff legislation mean he’s sure to be one of America’s best-remembered Presidents: definitely not just a flash in the pan, Benjy’s here to stay.

8. Johan Julius Christian "Jean" Sibelius
Crazy name, crazy guy.

9. Friedrich Nietzsche
The success of Freddy’s ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’ proves Superman is still a summer blockbuster. Not using your will to power is sooo 1891.

10. Edvard Munch
Bipolar disorder is chicer than chic this year – this Norwegian painter is one to watch: his new work should be a scream.